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Everything Doesn’t Have to be Perfect!
Do you ever want holidays to be “just right” so badly that you obsess them right into “perfectly miserable”? I do. As a kid, I would get so excited about my birthday that, by the time it got there, it could not possibly live up to my grandiose expectations. As an adult, I can easily stay up late for too many nights in a row getting everything done to make for a perfect holiday and, when the family finally gets together around the tree and table and games, I’m hallucinating from sleep deprivation.
Yesterday morning I was frazzled. Just eight days before Christmas and I was leaving town for a couple of days to take my father to a couple of doctors. While I was away, my son was having some company over, and within a few hours of my return, my husband’s family was converging for a celebration in another state. I wrapped last minute gifts, cleaned up last minute messes for Caleb’s company, wrote down last minute instructions for the guys about meals, put gifts out for others who were going to be coming by and worked a bit on a group holiday project. The to-do list for the next few days was entirely too long and I was entirely too short on sleep and patience. I needed to get this trip done and get home, get cooking, get packing and get going–yet again.
As I pulled into my dad’s driveway, I was praying. “Lord help me to remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. EVERYTHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT! I know, Lord, that You are perfect and You have given me Your will for my life and that is all that I want. In fact, Lord, You just load me down with Your blessings! I am going to visit my ninety-one-year-old father and I am going to see if he needs me to help him finish his shopping and wrapping, of all things. Who gets to do that?! Lord, You are way too good to me. Help me to do Your bidding in all ways this day.”
I walked through the patio door to find the front rooms all empty. I remembered this was the day that he had to get up extra early to go to his men’s Bible class. “Maybe, he’s taking a nap.”
I walked down the hall, peeked in his room just in time to see him awaken and say, “Hello. I didn’t even know you were here!” Then, sitting up, he hugged me and said, “One thing I wanted to see if you could help me do….I wondered if we could go to WalMart and you could help me with some of my Christmas shopping.”
He showed me his neat little stack of index cards. At the top of each card was a name of a child or grandchild or very close friend. Some of the cards had one or two gifts already listed. And a couple of cards had items that were marked “wrapped.” These were the ones he had already bought, wrapped, tagged and placed under the tree. There was even a card marked “stockings” (He fills 19 of them.) and one marked “fireworks.” (He plans a pretty big display.) Remember, he is ninety-one.
From the cards, Dad made a list of people he wanted to “finish up” and the rest of the day (except for one pesky little doctor’s appointment and a great lunch at Betty’s Barbecue) we spent picking out the right gifts, getting boxes down from the barn loft for wrapping (Okay, I did the loft thing by myself.) and listing the purchased items on the index cards. Then I fixed him a fried bologna sandwich and he was off to bed.
I sat there in his living room floor, surrounded by the presents, paper, lists and tags. It’s hard to remember a time when I could sit down at the end of the day, reflect, and feel any more blessed than I did beside that twinkling tree in Jacksonville, Alabama at the end of that day. Still there were minor obstacles. I did not have enough boxes to get all of that wrapping done. I could not get my computer to play Christmas music while I wrapped. Mostly, I did not have enough time to do all of that wrapping, even if I stayed up all night, and I had to travel home before the next nightfall to pack and go again. But the phrase that is my mantra this holiday season kept popping into my head: “Everything does not have to be perfect.” So I went to work with the drive of a North Pole elf and the faith of a child at Christmas.
…When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a girlfriend with boxes and music to cheer!…That’s right. My friend, Diane, popped in, just at the right time. “Oh…let me help you. I love to wrap. Music? I have music right here in my i-tunes Christmas collection…and, look, …I have this little device that amplifies it. We can crank it up!…I used to wrap at the department store where I worked in Virginia and one time I wrapped up Christmas for The Statler Brothers!…Wait, I have tissue paper and boxes in the trunk of my car. Let me get them.” Ladies, we are talking about a real elf, here, who just walked right onto the wrapping premises the moment I needed her most, and by one o’clock that morning, it was all wrapped up!
I do not believe any child will be much more excited this Christmas morning than my dad was when he got up and saw that brimming tree. I think his “Claus-ometer” was plummeting (kind of like mine had done a few hours earlier) and now, he was back on his game. He went back to the stack of index cards, and made a new and shorter list of people who needed just one more item, so we could go back and “finish” the “finishing up.” We stayed at it and he was very much the “present chooser”. I would say, “Oh this sweater is pretty. I think she’d like this.” He would pick up a similar one, but distinctive in some way, and say “Well, I think I like this kind of collar a lot better,” all the while leaning hard on the shopping cart. I knew his back was hurting.
And that brings me to the last big episode of this visit: a trip to the doctor for a big shot of steroids to try and get a handle on this pain in his back. Without describing all the details, may I just say that was a pretty big protracted experience and it was after four in the afternoon when he woozily walked out of that office? First thing in the car, he said, “Well do you think you will make it back to ‘Hunts-town’ for church?”
“I’m not going to try that, Dad. I’m not good with leaving you just yet.”
“Well, then you will go to Bible class at Jacksonville?”
“If I go anywhere, Dad, it will be Jacksonville, but I am not going to leave you alone tonight.”
“Well, then you will be going to church at Jacksonville…because, if they are going to have it, I am going to go. And if they are not having it, I am going to try not to go.” (For a full explanation of that comment, see https://thecolleyhouse.org/?s=right+turn.)
So we did. And, this morning, I am praising God, that, so far, his back has not hurt since he got that shot. If it does start hurting, even before this day is out, of course, I will still praise Him.
God is just so good. He was good on the day that Mother died 21 years ago. He has been good for the ensuing years that my father has lived alone.
He was good when my father was a boy and he “did good” to have a candy cane and an orange on Christmas morning. He is still good now that he is old and there are scores of gifts under that tree when we gather.
He was good when my dad went into the service of this country about seventy years ago. He is still good now that he is “being served” more than he is serving.
He was good when my dad carried us caroling to cheer elderly people when we were kids. He will still be good this evening when the carolers from the Jacksonville church will rap on his door and he will be able to join the chorus of Jingle Bells yet again.
He is good on the days when his back hurts and He is good today–a pain free day! It may start hurting again tomorrow, but He will still be good.
God is good. While some people just get older and older, God’s people just get older and newer–until one day they are perfectly new in heaven with Him.
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18)
Everything doesn’t have to be perfect…till then!